“Good reader, tread gently:
“For though these vacant years may seem to make me guilty of thy censure, neither will I excuse myself from all blemishe; yet if thou doe but cast thine eye upon the former pages and see with what care I have kept the Annalls of mine owne time, and rectifyed sundry errors of former times, thou wilt begin to think ther is some reason why he that began to build so well should not be able to make an ende.
“The truth is that besyde the miserys and distractions of these ptermitted years which it may be God in his owne wisdom would not suffer to be kept uppon record, the special ground of that permission ought to be imputed to Richard Finch, the p’rishe Clarke, whose office it was by long pscrition to gather the ephemeris or dyary by the dayly passages, and to exhibit them once a year to be transcribed into this registry; and though I have often called upon him agayne and agayne to remember his chadge, and he always told me that he had the accompts lying by him, yet at last p’ceaving his excuses, and revolving upon suspicion of his words to put him home to a full tryall I found to my great griefe that all his accompts were written in sand, and his words committed to the empty winds. God is witness to the truth of this apologie, and that I made it knowne at some parish meetings before his own face, who could not deny it, neither do I write it to blemishe him, but to cleere my own integritie as far as I may, and to give accompt of this miscarryage to after ages by the subscription of my hand.”
[Footnote 62: Social Life as told by Parish Registers, by T.F. Thiselton-Dyer, p. 57.]
We may hope that all clerks were not so neglectful as poor Richard Finch, whose name is thus handed down as an “awful example” to all careless clerks. The same practice of the parish clerks recording the particulars of weddings, christenings, and burials seems to have prevailed at St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street, London, in 1542, as the following order shows:
“They shall every week certify to the curate and the churchwardens all the names and sir-names of them that be wedded, christened, and buried in the same parish that week sub pena of a 1 d. to be paid to the churche.”
In this case the curate doubtless entered the items in the register as they were delivered to him.
At St. Margaret’s, Lothbury, the clerk seems to have kept the register himself. Amongst the ordinances made by “the hole consent of the parrishiners” in 1571, appears the following:
“Item the Clarcke shall kepe the register of cristeninge weddinge and burynge perfectlye, and shall present the same everie Sondaie to the churche wardens to be perused by them, and shall have for his paines in this behaufe yearelye 0. 03. 4.”
It is evident that in some cases in the sixteenth century the clerk kept the register. But in far the larger number of parishes the records were inserted by the vicar or rector, and in many books the records are made in Latin. The “clerk’s notes” from which the entries were made are still preserved in some parishes.